Sunday, November 19, 2017

Apple Bread, Tea, Sunday Evening

At left, fresh cup of tea, apple bread (think banana bread but with cinnamon and apples covered by a streusel topping) from my local cider mill, and prose.

I'm at the ink but it is a good night here. First real snow of the year this morning. We've had fall flurries but it is now working up to being serious about winter.

I got some new cdc today to try some flymphs tomorrow night at the grotto. There are some beautiful cdc spiders over at the Small Stream Reflections blog (link at right)  and that got me thinking about my early season flymphs.

I like cdc. I like how it moves in the water.

I have an idea for my early season using a parachute-style pheasant tail nymph.

My first thought driving down the road was that it was a stupid idea. I tie flymphs and fish them subsurface to indicate the larval stages between nymph and fly. I'm well in the water column with these "lures." That's how I've thought of them.

Cripples, drowned emergers, stillborn, and the other surface dwelling non-dun? I use a thick bodied soft hackle sometimes with a drop of floatant.

A nymph -- a subsurface imitation-- as an early season indicator? A post on a nymph?

I need something other than a big bushy dry as the early season/early day partner on a dry-dropper. So, I look it up.

Gary Borger has an example on his blog from 2012 (here) of a parachute pheasant tail nymph that isn't exactly what I am after but which contains a good recommendation. The professor states his parachute pheasant tail out performs any other imitation during Baetis hatches.

Sounds like my entire spring -- except for the "out perform" part, of course. I always feel I have to work very hard for cool spring trout. Opener was different last year with a nice warm spring afternoon before the cool spring deluge that followed the next day.

Right in my wheelhouse.

Hmm, here's a fellow whose books I own who fishes a parachute flymph and says positive things about it. Also, the PTN is one of my favorites. I tie them with greater precision than a hare's ear so there's that.

Time to smash together a buoyant, upright floating, white posted PTN flymph with some cdc feathers for the motive attraction.

I don't feel like a complete idiot now.

Wait until I post some pictures. You can laugh then. Luckily, trout enjoy being amused by my efforts. My flies are ... beguiling.

Tomorrow night flies. Tonight prose, tea, and apple bread.


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Brook Trout of Unusual Size (B.T.O.U.S.)

Alright, I'll admit it is a Northern Pike as crafted by Robert W. Hines for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and therefor in the public domain as hosted on wikicommons.

R.O.U.S. => rodents of unusual size from The Princess Bride  published in 1973 by Harcout Brace as written by  William Goldman.

A buddy I'm going fishing with casually sentd me a picture of a 17" brookie this morning. Just another fish caught. Meh. [ Let's clarify: he's not a recreational angler. You'd say he was squarely in the "commercial"  category.]

Of course, like most of you I had to wait until I had my glasses, a proper monitor, and a couple cups of coffee to look at the snap.

It's a fish. You've seen them before.

The thing is, we get stuck on size as anglers. We drool over large fish.

I don't give a damn when I'm actually fishing if it is a 4" brookie or a 16" brown. I'm delighted for action.

When pictures come out, it is as if I'm in fifth grade and found a Playboy  [ okay, it was the interview with Jimmy Carter issue. They were everywhere]. Only then, I knew those girls didn't actually exist.

Show me a picture of a 24" brown out of a drainage canal and I believe I can go right out here to the ditch and get one myself.

It's a size thing. Pictures of big fish turn something off in our brains. Mostly, they turn off the spending control part of the amygdala.

I stopped by the fly shop today and made a payment on something beautiful. Useful; but, beautiful. It doesn't hurt that I just love Dirk and Lauren at my local shop. Great people. Friends.

I found out we're going back to the Driftless this year. Two trips. I'm going in the May run. Could use the outing. Hope Dr. Don can make it, too. And Jim. Be great if Jim can come.

I am definitely putting together a camping group on the Black river for opener. Several folks are interested either in camping or coming by for morning breakfast before heading out.

Makes me very happy.

Biscuits and gravy. Hot coffee. I'll probably cook both on a gas stove this year just so I can create a bigger warming fire without burning the grub. We'll need a good warming fire.

I could use a new gas stove for groups, anyway.

Something about turning the knob under a big coffee pot and starting the warming-fire when everyone else is still in their bags makes me feel good. I like the smell of a fire in the morning and the radiant warmth of the first hot cup of coffee. I have plenty of wool and down. I'm good for fire-lighting duty.

It's going to be a great opener. Yes, it is six months away.

I've got trout excitement bad. Watch out, it's catchy.


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

No Boat for You

At left, the US Navy carrying my dreams away.

Actually, it is a RIB from Special Boat Team 12 is being airlifted. Either way, I don't get a boat.

I've had a couple conversation with U.P. folks in the past couple days as I try and assess a trip to the Fox, the Two Hearted,  and the Tahquamenon.

Verdict: no boat. One man portage from chest deep holes? No. Don't try.

So, walk in, fish a hole, move on to the next access, fish that hole. It's more a drive-in-and-walk than a float-and-fish type of operation.

So, I've learned something.

Looks like post-Labor Day is also a good plan for Black Fly control options as well.

All this means late season sees me in the U.P. sans bateau.

No loss.

I'm looking forward to putting together a camping group for opener on the Black for brookies. A couple of my trout friends are interested. Coffee, biscuits and gravy, and opening day trout.

I'm going to check out REI for a little better bag. Mine is rated to freezing and opener can demand something with a little more staying power. Hello, Marmot.

Yes, I do take a well sealed stainless canteen of hot water to be with me when it is really cold. Helps ... for six hours. I use a fleece bag liner too. Morning are cold in Michigan come April.


Monday, November 13, 2017

I Want a Boat

Stamp at left from the fallen Soviet Union. Image hosted on wikicommons. The soviets can sue me over the image's use.

It is sleeting outside this morning as I stay at home to take care of personal business. I guess this entry is now personal business.

I want a boat.

That is, I want the experience of traveling down rivers on a carefree current stopping at at the odd riffle or tongue of gravel to catch trout inaccessible to mere wading anglers.

I want to float the Two Hearted and the Fox weaving around the sweepers and past the odd rock or narrow run guarded by thick tag alders and briers.  I want to draw two inches of water on the Black standing to cast at nice cut-banks and holes dug by spring currents.

Watermaster seems great. A few pack canoes leap out at me.

I prefer the inflatable for stability. I prefer a hard-structure craft for timber and snags. Nothing is perfect.

I'll dump a canoe at the worst time. Same for a kayak.These rigid vessels are best used where recovery and support are at hand. They're not good for solo runs where the risk is a key piece of gear floating down the river from  "inadvertent bear roll."

Inflatables suffer punctures. I can patch anything. I'm a fan of marine epoxy. A meter roll of patch cloth covers many many ills. Still, critical gear floating a mile downstream requires my grossly inadequate spot-and-find technique to be pressed into service.

It is all for naught.

A boat requires a spotter run and that means other humans. There is nothing I can depend upon less than other humans.

Spotters are easy to come by where the aluminum hatch is heavy. Great!

That isn't water I want to be fishing.

Back woods, thirty miles into the forest, a slide down a bridge abutment: that's water I want to travel. It is not water supported by the local livery, fly shop, or even party store. I'm in the boonies and a boat is not a help.

I've thought of the bicycle routine - chain a bike at the run's end and peddle back to the vehicle at the start. Some do it. Has potential merit. Still considering the option.  It isn't like a twelve mile hike isn't out of the pale for me, either. Wouldn't hurt one bit to put on a pair of boots and leg it out. Time, effort. Those things I might find.

The fleeting problem with a boat is that the effort of using it is not equaled by the enjoyment I'd have.

I need a boat for a dozen trips a decade. Not really making much sense here. Of course, without the boat my dream of fishing the Fox next year is almost zero.

I want. That word usually leads to some sort of evil in my world. It wears on the ursine psyche.

An Old Town 119 is hard to beat for the price. Pack canoe. Heavy - but then cheap costs extra effort. Always has.

There are many other great pack canoes out there but they start at three times the price. I'd rather a plane ticket to a destination than a better canoe stored all summer on sawhorses under my spruce trees (and out of sight of frau bear!).

I haven't solved the mystery of remote adventure water yet. It is difficult to access for a reason. That's the reward: difficult. I know what the Holy Waters on the Au Sable becomes when June rolls around. It can be nearly combat fishing.

Three hours more in the SUV and the crowd is gone. The water isn't as well known. The fish are not as pressured. The canoes are few. The wilderness is wilderness except for a few seasonal grouse and deer hunters.

I have a few months to decide. Yes: you'd think there is the option of a guide service. Those fellows cover the known water around here: Manistee, Au Sable, Pere Marquette, the Pine, the Rifle.

Backwoods do-it-yourself is indeed backwoods do-it-yourself. Can't complain about the options if I pick "undeveloped" and "isolated" options for adventure.

Two-thirds of the trip's reward is figuring out how to make it work.

Hello Craigslist! Somebody has to have a pack canoe to trade for Christmas money. That new Cascapedia can wait a couple months.


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Year Ahead

At   left, public domain image of Hemingway fishing in Key West in '28.  Image from the Kennedy museum and hosted on wikicommons.

Happy. Jovial. Looking forward to an afternoon of fishing.       

Putin fishing in Tuva, 2007. Image provided courtesy and hosted on wikicommons.

Happy. Jovial. Looking forward to an afternoon of mayhem.

I must not be taking my shirt off enough. Writers and despots get all the hot babes.

I'm looking ahead to '18. I can't believe I wrote that. I long anticipated being dead by now.

2018 goals:

(1) Fox and Two-Hearted, Upper Peninsula Michigan.

(2) Upper Columbia - American Reach, Washington.

(3) Yakima River, Washington.

(4) Outings to the Black River, Lower Peninsula Michigan.

(5) Jordan River and the Jordan River Valley, Lower Peninsula Michigan.

(6) An opportunity I don't expect.

It's a big brook trout year for me here in Michigan. I like brook trout, have the gear for them, and love to spend an afternoon watching them demolish a barbless wet fly. I'm going to do more of that this year.

The Senator won his election last night so I don't expect to see him fishing any time soon. Big Bear likes the camp (and camp cooking) more than the fish. Wilson is moving to Seattle. Mobes has a girlfriend.

It'll be a good year for solo adventure.


Sunday, November 5, 2017

Cat Heads

 The ground is sodden. The rivers are blown out and in the trees. We've had rain six of the last seven. Should end for a bit after tonight.

I needed an attitude adjustment.

My early streamer season has evaporated in the wet. The trout are on the beds and I'll hope for a nice Christmas week to try and find something anxious to chase my streamers.

In the meantime, cheese-y biscuits. Cathead biscuits with sharp cheddar cheese baked into them.

Here, the biscuits put to use as a bear's breakfast: ham on cheese-y biscuit.

Beargirl's dean gave me the coffee mug and as I was driving everyone around last night in the deluge, I used the mug this morning. Michigan played a night game in a storm's aftermath and so I was transport officer. Spousal duty.

I like biscuits in the morning when I'm camping.  I like biscuits when I'm not camping, too.

The recipe is idiot simple.

Six biscuits cooked for 22 minutes at 425 in a conventional oven.

1 1/2 cup of flour. King Arthur AP unbleached works.
1/2 tablespoon baking powder. (use a little more if yours isn't a new tin)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda.
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 tablespoons dried buttermilk
2 tablespoons shortening
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup water.

I mix the dry and cut in the butter and shortening with a fork until coarse grains form. I bag the mix.

In the field, I grease a Banks fry-bake pan, add the water to the mix until the biscuits are large crumbs of about ping-pong ball size. I give the dough a good minute to sit then mix again by hand. The minute rest allows the moisture to saturate the dough and with a good three or four squeezes it is ready to form into balls the size of a cat's head.

Too much kneading and the biscuit is tough. Too little and there isn't enough developed gluten to split them with a fork and have them stay together.

I use a generous cup of cheese when I decide to make cheesy biscuits.

My new OPST heads haven't arrived yet. I'm going to use them for some two-handed trout here this fall. I'll let you know what I think of them when they're here.

Brown ale. The weather calls for brown ale. And biscuits.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Wax On -- Fine. Wax Off? Maybe Not.

At left, some Bailey's Fly Tyer's Wax.

Yes, that's a small KaBar and it was just sitting on my desk so I used it for a size reference. I wear one when I go trout camping and the library shows a little wear from a hard-run at late-season trout.

There's a story behind this but let me show another picture.

Here's the puck of wax. I removed a piece on the left -- too much -- for a Monday night session here at the Beer Grotto.

I read about the Bailey's Wax--probably named for Dan Bailey-- in an article I found in the magazine FlyFishing & FlyTying as written by Magnus Angus. (Article Here). Mr. Angus does a great job on his review of the product and I encourage you to have a look.

However, you do need to read all of the words. I might not have done that.

This Bailey's stuff is a dubbing wax. Great - I need it for dubbing and if it has sufficient tack (it does) I can use it for my hand-tied whip finishes and never smell the Hard As Nails again on a Sunday morning. (Enough of that you in the peanut gallery).

I sort of ignored the wise words of Mr. Angus about using spirits to remove the stuff from his fingers. Missed that part entirely much to my peril.

The stuff melts if you stick it on your paw. It softens. It also spreads a bit.

Imagine pine tree pitch with a bad attitude from a Christmas tree gathering expedition in your prospective father-in-law's new Mercedes which he has graciously loaned you for the day to take his daughter to get the seasonal pagan symbol.

Oh yea, the stuff went everywhere.

Now, dubbing with the stuff was amazing. I'm a dubbing loop fellow and I've never had such wonderful bottle-brush dubbing spins as when I used a bit to help my dubbing adhere in the early twists (I don't use a weighted little spinner).  There is no comparison between low-tack stick wax and this Bailey's stuff.

Though trying my new wax with a generous dollop--read "too bloody much"-- on my left index finger looked very cool, it rapidly emerged that I might have done something unwise.

A bit of loose dubbing stuck to my finger and I thought "no problem." Then a bit of trimmed deer hair stuck to my paw as I was tying up some Warden's Worry bucktail streamers and had some trimmings on the table.

Then the  hen feathers -- red -- stuck to my fingers as I was using a few barbs at a time to make the tail per the tying example of Joseph Bates in his Streamers & Bucktails. The increasing tackiness of most of my fingers and some of my tools was becoming a problem.

Then my beverage suck to my fingers.

No, not the wax hand fingers. The glass stuck to my other fingers on the hand which didn't even have the wax globbet clinging to it.

Hmm. Time to clean up.

Soap? This stuff laughs at soap. Laughs.

Luckily I was in a bar and there were some "counter grade" spirits readily at hand, as it were.

So, a little goes a long way. Wax that is. I used enough for something like ten tying sessions on my first try.

Advice: a small flake one-half the size of a dime shaved, kneaded, and adhered to a finger  and not a finger joint would be plenty for at least a dozen fully dubbed fly bodies in size six or eight.

The package is wonderful: that's a screw cap aluminum container and the wax is packaged in parchment within.

The wax is completely non-tacky to start. Knead it for ten seconds and place it on the surface of one medium sized bear paw and ... aggressive pine tar resin.

Works great to dub, though. Works great.

It's a tool. Most tools require a bit of knowledge to work well. Bailey's wax falls in that category.

I bought mine from a great guy named Christopher Stewart at Tenkara Bum (( Awesome service.

I like the stuff. I like what it did for my dubbed bodies.

I still had a bit on the back of my left forefinger this morning sort of matted into the hair; but, I burned it off. Clean now.